The Hambantota district, which has been under a curfew like all other districts since a curfew was imposed on March 20, will restart functioning from tomorrow when the curfew is relaxed, however strictly observing health regulations to prevent a spread of COVID-19.
The district which is home to various communities and sectors, such as a strong agricultural sector, fisheries sector, small and medium scale enterprises and farming has contributed immensely to the Sri Lankan economy. However it is also a district which needs to be uplifted as there are several families which live below the poverty line.
The population of the district is a little over 650,000 people with 188,422 families. Those living below the poverty lines is an average 1.20 percent. In addition to the Samurdhi allowances which has been granted to families within these past few weeks in order to provide them some relief, in the Hambantota district, disability allowances and pensions and farmer allowances have also been allocated and paid to provide relief.
According to statistics, over Rs. 500 million has been allocated to conclude making these payments. In addition another Rs.9 million is required to pay allowances to the patients sufering from Chronic Kidney Diseases and those with disabilities. Presently there are 347 patients who are sufering from kidney ailments while there are 1641 people with disabilities. Grants have also been obtained to pay allowances to patients suffering from cancer.
Since March 20, when a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, authorities began distributing food to needy families. Till April 16, thousands of families benefited from this initiative, which included the distribution of essential food items such as red rice, dhaal, sugar, salmon, onions, chick peas, garlic etc.
In addition, since Hambantota is popular for its agricultural sector, arrangements were made with the authorities to sell local stocks within the district while also sending large stocks of fruits, vegetables, rice to other districts across the country. The district has over 49,000 farmers. Even dairy products were included in this, so that farmers ss well as the domestic market benefits. Strict Health guidelines were maintained and followed during the distribution process.
Even during the pandemic closure, farmers were allowed to continue their farming in order to prevent a food shortage in the island. Presently there is 36,000 hectares of cultivated land in Hambantota district out of which 34,000 hectares has already been harvested. The district has the potential to produce 400 metric tonnes of paddy rice per day so during the curfew, farmers were given all facilities to work in order to distribute according to market demand. There is already 7,357.5 metric tonnes of paddy already collected.
The Hambantota district also has an annual production of 112,382 metric tonnes of vegetables out of which 45,120 metric tonne is consumed per year. The district has an annual vegetable surplus of 67,262 metric tonnes per year. The district also produces over 47,000 metric tonnes of fruits per year with a surplus of over 185,000 metric tonnes. In addition there is a mega home gardening program also ongoing in the district with the corporation of the Agrarian Development Department.
In addition to agriculture, the district also has a strong fisheries industry. For a day, 187 boats depart out to sea to catch their stock, while 229 multi day boats enter the local waters. Small fishing boats also engage in daily fishing in the district.
The Hambantota district, since it is a dry land also faces severe droughts in some months of the year. To prevent this from affecting the agricultural sectors, we have provided drinking water facilities to several households which include community water projects, drinking water projects and wells and tube wells being constructed. Hundreds of water bowsers are also deployed in each area across the district to provide water to families so that they can continue to have access to clean drinking water.
During to the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure safety of all citizens in the district, and to ensure that strict health guidelines are followed, hundreds of police and tri force personnel had been deployed across the district while quarantine centers have been set up in Weeraketiya, Lunugamvehera, Weerawila and Sooriyawewa. All safety measures have been in place.
Meanwhile an education program is also underway across the district to create awareness on the upcoming southwest monsoons. In recent years, these monsoons have caused devastation especially in the south and farmers have lost all their cultivation. Local authorities have begun an awareness programs at the division level and we will now try to turn the tide in being prepared before hand before natural calamities affect us and cause devastation.
The above is just an overview of what is going on in the Hambantota district and the measures already in place. However there is always room for improvement and we are ensuring that we take all steps necessary for the development of the district as well as to ensure a better life for the citizens in the area.
The government is committed to look into the welfare of all its citizens. In unity we can emerge as a leading nation very soon which will benefit our domestic sectors the most.